A parasocial relationship usually exists when you have distance from the person or people. Social scientists, Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl, coined the term in 1956 to explain the overwhelming obsession Americans had with TV performers (via Huffpost). With social media and easy access to influencers, celebrities and even normal people, parasocial relationships have become embedded into our lives.
Dr. David Giles from the University of Winchester told Refinery29, “They are meaningful, sometimes as meaningful as actual social relationships, because even people we don’t know can have profound significance in our lives, as inspiration or reassurance … much of the time we don’t really notice [them] because they’re so natural.”
However, all relationships can be categorized as healthy or toxic. And unsurprisingly, parasocial relationships can turn toxic. When you’re super invested, it can be hard to draw a line between what is real and imagined. And it can take up more time and energy than you want. Licensed therapist Natalie Jeung told Greatist, “On social media, it’s easy to think we know every aspect of someone’s life. How much are you grounded in reality in that aspect?” Jeung suggests auditing the parasocial relationships in your life — they can help you feel like you belong but like any other relationship, cut it off when it doesn’t serve you.